By Taylor Thompson, TSCPA Student Ambassador at TN Tech University, Cookeville, Tenn.
I learned one of the top tasks throughout your academic career as a business student is creating and building relationships. We call these relationships and connections networking. The hardest part of networking is setting yourself apart from those competing for the same objective as you and being remembered. How can you be remembered and stand out from the rest? Branding yourself is how I’ve learned to set myself apart from my competition, and branding yourself correctly can and will lead you to your academic and professional success. I want to share with you what I’ve learned about how to brand yourself, and share with you some personal changes I’ve made to improve my professional brand. Here are several ways to improve your image as a potential employee and future professional:
- The first thing an employer sees is of course your face, but did you know one of the top errors of an individual’s first impression in an interview is a lack of cleanliness and personal hygiene? After hearing this, I began to wash my face twice daily, whiten my teeth twice a week, shape up my eyebrows every two weeks and shave every two to three days. In today’s society, men’s grooming has become a growing trend. So men, try your best to keep your hair trimmed and beard freshly shaven before walking into your interview. Women should have their hair neat and makeup subtle but flattering. Leaving your hair like you just crawled out of bed is not what an employer wants to see first.
- The next thing an employer notices is your handshake. Make sure your handshake is firm and stiff, not delicate or limp. This tells a lot about an individual’s character. A firm handshake shows a hard worker and one who can act as a leader. Also, you want to have neatly trimmed finger nails. Make sure there is no dirt nor debris underneath your nails.
- You have less than 30 seconds to make an impression…that seems stressful! How do we create a positive impact in 30 seconds? This is when you must sell yourself verbally. You need to practice what business professionals call your “elevator speech.” An elevator speech usually includes who you are, what you do, and what your intentions are. You want to make sure you leave them feeling as though you possess qualities that none of your competitors have.
After perfecting your physical appearance, what do you wear an interview? When planning your interview outfit, observe how the employees at the company dress. After learning the dress code, take your outfit one step beyond theirs. If employees dress business casual, you want to dress more business professional, with a button-up, tie, sport coat and dress shoes for men, or a nice dress, skirt or pantsuit for women. When picking out designs and colors, you do not want to clash colors or wear “unique” designs. Navy and blacks do not go together; try to stay away from wearing navy and blacks in the same outfit. Do not mix brown with black either. If you have brown hair, navy and neutral colors are flattering. If you have black hair, strive to keep blacks, grays, and whites in your wardrobes. You want your clothes to complement your face and hair. Coordinating your outfit with your hair color can help you create your personal brand.
Finally, present yourself with confidence! You want to seem like you know you are the best option for the company. There is a difference between arrogance and confidence. Stay humble, carry yourself with self-assurance, and remembers these words, “Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark.”